Archive | The Phrase Freak

Those Pernicious Business Clichés

Tolbert WhistlebottomTolbert Whistlebaum had a deep and abiding love for the English language, which is why he took a doctorate at Oxfjord University, concentrating on Naughty Victorian Literature.

His scholarship was insufficient to cover his tuition and his love affair with first edition copies of Richard Burton’s translation of the Kama Sutra (eventually they became unreadable), so he took on a copy-editing job with the marketing division of Gargantuan Enterprises. His boss was a lovely and exciting woman, but she did nothing to stop the linguistic excrescences that his co-workers produced on a daily basis.

He is pictured here, shortly before he did a little “rightsizing” at the company through a new “aggressive interface paradigm.”

Everyone agreed — including the judge — that his presentation was quite “impactful”.

Alltop is constantly monetizing their outside-the-box thinking, and moving forward too. Originally published, July 2007, and appears in the collection, Pirate Therapy and Other Cures.

The Phrase Freak: Moving Forward

The Phrase FreakThis piece of hackery is most often heard in business settings, but I’m afraid it has even crept into the hallowed halls of academe, where one is as likely to hear Latin freakery such as sui generis.

It tends to be used in one of two ways, both of which are like dragging a mailed glove over a blackboard (see video below).

The most common use is to say something like, “moving forward, this project will take us into the future, where happy unicorns and horny leprechauns will help us impact the bottom line, probably more than we’d like.” (We shall discuss “impact” in another column .) Like, at this point in time, this is an extremely silly phrase because its saying, really, moving forward in time.

But until we have invented a working time machine, we have NO CHOICE but to move forward in time. Moving backward (in time) is not an option people! And really, what self-respecting person wants to move backward, unless it’s away from some kind of danger, or an abhorrent phrase like “it is what it is”.

The other use is to segue from one topic of conversation/item in an agenda, to the next. Let’s just all agree not to do this anymore, okay? It’s torture!

Almost as torturous as this (slide forward to the 8:53 mark):


You can find it at YouTube if the embedded thingy doesn’t work.

So this one gets seven out of ten gobsmacks:
Seven out of ten gobsmacks

Like me, alltop pretends to understand Latin phrases too. Originally published in December, 2009.

The Phrase Freak: Specific Timetable

Non-specific bus timetableThis is a phrase you hear more and more, particularly in the broadcast media, but the print world is guilty of it as well.

For example, I Googled the phrase in a news search yesterday, and got 850 results, including such august publications as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. To be fair, I was sent to Google after hearing it on CBC (radio) news recently.

A timetable, by it’s very nature, is specific. Otherwise, it is quite useless, as evidenced by the “non-specific” timetable I’ve created for the fictional Godot Buslines.

Freak level on this phrase: 7 gobsmacks out of 10.

Alltop is waiting to serve you humor. Originally published in December 2007.

Why Those 25 Things About You Aren't "Random"

The Phrase FreakThis is one that has been festering for some time, so please forgive the Phrase Freak if he goes “off the Bale” a bit. Like many changes to the English language, the meaning of this word has become twisted. Once, it defined something that was done without a method or choice, something determined by chance.

It did not mean something unexpected, strange, improvised, capricious, absurd, and cheese-eating monkeys flying out of my butt. (See that last one was absurd, a non sequitur for sure, but it was not random, even if it might have seemed that way to you.)

Now the Great Beast (Facebook) has slouched its way into the Bethlehem of my daily routine with an epidemic of lists (which by their nature tend to be the opposite of random) giving me supposedly “random” facts about the people I love and admire. Many of these people are incredibly literate. Way smarter than me. Yet they have fallen under the sway of the googly-eyed siren that spawned the phrase, “that’s, like, so totally random.”

It is easy to mistake great complexity or subtlety for randomness. I’d be willing to bet that most of those lists are:

  • carefully chosen
  • written to achieve a specific effect
  • tomato paste.

I’m afraid this usage gets eight gobsmacks out of ten. We’re on full alert now people!

Eight gobsmaks out of ten

Other freakish phrases:

Shovel Ready | specific timetable | full patch | IED | on the ground

You can check the definition of random yourself. Yardsitck! Alltop’s lack of coherence should not be considered random either. This was originally published in 2009, and I’m only repeating it now because I have heard it used by students so much recently.